The Mad Miss Mathley, by Michelle Martin

>> Thursday, February 01, 2007

Another book by a new-to-me author: The Mad Miss Mathley, by Michelle Martin.

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A lady who is ordered to accept the next proposal she receives hopes to change her parents' minds by entering a false betrothal with a notorious rake in exchange for giving him entree back to society.
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Would it be sacrilege for me to compare TMMM with that classic Heyer, Venetia? And how about if I say that I actually liked the former slightly better? A B.

Like Venetia, TMMM pairs an inexperienced, virginal heroine with a rakish hero with a bad reputation, in a story that's full of witty, sparkling dialogue and humour. Heiress Melinda Mathley has rejected so many marriage proposals that she has succeeded in making her father furious. So furious, in fact, that after the latest rejected proposal, Mr. Mathley decrees that Melinda will marry the next man who proposes, whoever he may be.

Melinda's solution? She'll enter into a false engagement with a man so inappropriate that rather than allow her to marry him, her father will be forced to revoke his decree. The man chosen is the scandalous Lord Peter Carlton, only recently back in London and with a horrible reputation after having done such things as eloping with a married woman, etc., etc., and many more etceteras.

The only reason Peter agrees to Melinda's proposition is because being Miss Mathley's fiancé will give him the sheen of respectability he needs to convince his uncle to leave him his fortune. But when he agreed, Peter didn't quite realize that there is a reason why Melinda is called "the mad Miss Mathley", and that the potentially disastrous muddles she seems to always get into risk shredding his reputation even further.

I'm not just comparing this book to Venetia because the bare bones of the stories are similar, but because the positives and negatives coincide almost completely. On the positive side, in both books we've got a romance in which it quickly becomes clear that the hero and heroine are intellectually perfect for each other. I loved seeing how Peter and Melinda became friends, realizing that they love spending time with each other. Peter, especially, finds in Melinda something that he hasn't been able to find in anyone else, and that is complete understanding and acceptance, including of the fact that he's changed a lot from the silly young man he used to be. Melinda has a way of seeing into the heart of things and refusing to be distracted by superficialities.

I would also compare TMMM to Venetia in terms of its very funny dialogue and the general tone of the humour. It's a kind of humour that depends, not on physical comedy or on people looking ridiculous, but on wit and and a somewhat skewed way of looking at reality. My favourite kind!

Unfortunately, however, one of the big negatives that made Venetia not work as a romance for me is present here, and that is the fact that I just didn't perceive much physical chemistry between Peter and Melinda. They're perfect for each other intellectually, yes, but I didn't get a feeling of attraction on either side. These two could have been brother and sister, for all the sizzle that was between them.

With that caveat, I'd still recommend TMMM. It was the perfect palate cleanser after finishing a particularly dark romance.

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